Our retreat began with the cadence of Native American drums, thus paying respect to the centuries-old practices of restorative justice that would give framework to the entire weekend. To the beat of these powerful sounds, more than 30 community members -- from mothers affected by homicide to state officials committed to meaningful change -- went through prison security and entered the auditorium where more than 100 incarcerated men had been escorted. Very rarely do prisoners in the United States and outside community members meet to discuss issues that affect individual and community life. This retreat was one of those opportunities. For the first half of Saturday, the men attended workshops on accepting responsibility, on the impact of crime on families as well as communities, on creative change, and on deep inner-personal exploration.

..."Raise your hand if you know someone who has been murdered," asked Janet Connors of the men. More than half the prisoners in attendance raised their hands. "Hurt people hurt people," continued Ms. Connors. In fact, every man in that room could relate to the harm they had caused another human being -- we have all felt pain. But as one of the men had reflected earlier, "Healed people heal others, too." This was the men's impetus for being present. This explained why men destined to live the rest of their lives inside prison walls would volunteer to attend a restorative justice retreat.

...As for the men: Our weekend came to a close with a moving song one of the inmates composed. One man played the violin while the other sang the notes to the piano. We concluded with more public apologies and then a Responsibility Pledge Ceremony: To live righteous lives wherever the men may be, to make amends for their crimes, and to spread awareness about the impact of crime on families and communities.

One man's words have stayed with me to this day, "Because I stole that little girl's life, I now have to live the life of two people." And thus, the restorative journey begins.

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